In this guest post, author Monica Brown shares the magic that is passed down through generations of women in her family in the form of creativity and dreams. El cuarto turquesa / The Turquoise Room will be published September 27 and is available for pre-order now.
It is a pleasure to see my book, El cuarto turquesa / The Turquoise Room, illustrated by the incredible Adriana Garcia, and expertly translated by my cousin Cynthia Miranda McIntosh, out in the world! It’s my most autobiographical book, which makes me feel vulnerable, but sometimes we need to take risks to fulfill the promise of our creativity. This story of mothers and daughters and migration, of love and magic and dreaming, is one I want in the hands of children—my own and others.
I am the daughter of a South American mother and a North American father. My mother was an immigrant to the United States and an artist. As a young girl, my abuelita was also an artist. A map of South America that she painted hangs by my desk where I write. Growing up, I crossed borders and boundaries, going back and forth with her to Peru—a place of considerable inspiration to me. In Piura, Peru, I lay beside my mother, Isabel, in the turquoise room of her youth, the room her mother died in, now painted over with white, and my mother spun stories and encouraged my dreams. I now fly through my writing, and I write in the light of my grandmother Esther’s magical map. My ancestors inspire me, and I seek to inspire my children—so that stories continue to be told, and children continue to dream. So that each child can always look to their own imagination for fun and adventure—and for solace.
In this book, each girl, then woman, discovers the magic passed down to them—the secret of the turquoise room. What they discover in this magic realist story is that they can fly—literally and via their art and imagination. At night, the boundaries between the real and the magical are blurred, and first Esther, then Isabel, then Monica fly over the mountains and the sea, across countries and continents.
What I don’t share in this picture book is that something other than creativity and love binds Esther, Isabel, and me together. All three of us were joined by Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (ADPKD), a brutal kidney disease that led to my abuelita’s early death at 41 and my own mother’s death at 63. In 2018, four years ago this December, I received the gift of life in the form of a deceased-donor kidney transplant. I wrote to honor the ultimate altruism that makes it possible for me to write these words, and my mother and grandmother, who found beauty and light in the darkest of times through their creativity. In this book, girls and women fly along rivers of paint between the whirl and swirl of words on the page, dancing to the beat of music, leaping and running. At night, they spread their arms wide, close their eyes, and fly!
or through your favorite Latinx-owned bookshop!
MONICA BROWN has written twenty acclaimed picture books, including the Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor-winning Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match, as well as the Lola Levine and Sarai chapter book series. Most of her stories are inspired by her desire to bring diverse stories to children and by her own mixed heritage, which includes Peruvian, Scottish, Spanish, Amerindian, and Jewish ancestry. When not writing for children, Brown serves as a professor of English at Northern Arizona University, where she teaches about US Latino and multicultural literature. Brown lives with her family in Flagstaff, Arizona. Her website is monicabrown.net.